Sunday, 23 February 2014

Red Squirrel, Anagach Woods

Not so much birding - more "Squirreling"

Day 4, a Sunday and a planned easy day. After a leisurely breakfast I joined a band of birders led by Frank, one of the hotel guides, for a stroll through Anagach Woods. I wanted to know the location of the bird and squirrel feeders that the hotel maintains within the wood.
Sure enough as we approached two Red Squirrels were active in the area, duly noted for a subsequent visit. The wind was bending the tops of the pines and few small birds were about but several times I caught the sound of Crossbills, alas nothing visually. We carried on down to the river where we were treated to the sight of several Dippers that performed that unique activity of crash landing in midstream and disappearing underwater only to surface near the bank. The only other notable episodes on an extremely pleasant walk were a fly-by of two Goosanders and the discovery of Pine Marten pooh. Then the rain set in.

What to do next? I threw the camera gear into the car and drove towards Aviemore with no intended destination. Finally I found myself driving up to the base of the Mountain Railway on Cairngorm, on the way I passed such notables as the Dog Sled Centre and The Reindeer Centre plus a host of other tourist attractions that will be avoided on future visits.
Unfortunately the railway had been closed for four consecutive days due to high winds so a trip to the top for any Ptarmigan or Snow Buntings was not possible. I descended, noting the plethora of glum faced lycra clad individuals pining for the thrill of falling over in snow. Surely it would be better to go into Europe where there is almost guaranteed skiing conditions at a similar cost to that incurred by a trip to the Cairngorms. That would leave the ski lifts and railway available for the sole use of birders and walkers, undisturbed access to montane wildlife - bliss!

At lower altitudes the weather had cleared and in fact as I made my way back toward Grantown clear blue skies and glorious sunshine prevailed. Glad that I had packed all my camera gear, I returned to Anagach Woods and the squirrels. I had to wait some time before any action, sufficient to discover that the woods suffer mildly from the blight that affects my home county of West Sussex - uncontrolled dogs and inconsiderate dog owners.
Finally one chap/chapess turned up in brilliant sunshine and I snapped away. Capturing him/her on a branch was impossible, if squirrels move away from the feeder then they travel like greased lightning.

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